Facing Foreclosure? What To Do Right Now, by Jerry DeMuth, HouseLogic.com

If you’re facing foreclosure, don’t panic: Take steps right now to save your home or at least lessen the blow of its loss.

A record high 2.8 million properties were hit with foreclosure notices (http://www.realtytrac.com/contentmanagement/pressrelease.aspx?channelid=9&accnt=0&itemid=8333) in 2009. That’s the bad news. The good news: About two-thirds of notices don’t result in actual foreclosures, says Doug Robinson of NeighborWorks, a nonprofit group that offers foreclosure counseling.

Many homeowners find alternatives to foreclosure by negotiating with lenders, often with the help of foreclosure counselors. If you’re facing foreclosure, call your lender right now to determine your options, which can include loan modification, forbearance, or a short sale.

Foreclosure process takes time

The entire foreclosure process (http://portal.hud.gov/portal/page/portal/HUD/topics/avoiding_foreclosure/foreclosureprocess) can take anywhere from two to 12 months, depending on how fast your lender acts and where you live. Some states allow a nonjudicial process that’s speedier, while others require time-consuming judicial proceedings.

Once you miss at least one mortgage payment, the steps leading up to an actual foreclosure sale can include demand letters, notices of default, a recorded notice of foreclosure, publication of the debt, and the scheduling of a foreclosure auction. Even when an auction is scheduled, however, it may never occur, or it may occur but a qualified buyer doesn’t materialize.

Bottom line: Foreclosure can be a long slog, which gives you enough time to come up with an alternative. Meantime, if your goal is to salvage your home, think about keeping up with payments for homeowners insurance and property taxes. Otherwise, you could compound your problems by getting hit with an uncovered casualty loss or liability suit, or tax liens.

Read the fine print

Start by reviewing all correspondence you’ve received from your lender. The letters–and phone calls–probably began once you were 30 days past due. Also review your mortgage documents, which should outline what steps your lender can take. For instance, is there a “power of sale” clause that authorizes the sale of your home to pay off a mortgage after you miss payments?

Determine the specific foreclosure laws (http://www.foreclosurelaw.org) for your state. What’s the timeline? Do you have “right of redemption,” essentially a grace period in which you can reverse a foreclosure? Are deficiency judgments that hold you responsible for the difference between what your home sells for and your loan’s outstanding balance allowed? Get answers.

Pick up the phone

Don’t give up because you missed a mortgage payment or two and received a notice of default. Foreclosure isn’t a foregone conclusion, but it’s heading in that direction if you don’t call your lender. Dial the number on your mortgage statement, and ask for the Loss Mitigation Department. You might stay on hold for a while, but don’t hang up. Once you do get someone on the line, take notes and record names.

The next call should be to a foreclosure avoidance counselor (http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/fc/) approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. One of these counselors can, free of charge, explain your state’s foreclosure laws, discuss alternatives to foreclosure, help you organize financial documents, and even represent you in negotiations with your lender. Be wary of unsolicited offers of help, since foreclosure rescue scams (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/avoid-foreclosure-rescue-scams/) are common.

Be sure to let your lender know that you’re working with a counselor. Not only does it demonstrate your resolve, but according to NeighborWorks, homeowners who receive foreclosure counseling are 1.6 times more likely to avoid losing their homes than those who don’t. Homeowners who receive loan modifications with the help of a counselor also reduce monthly mortgage payments (http://www.nw.org/newsroom/pressReleases/2009/netNews111809.asp) by $454 more than homeowners who receive a modification without the aid of a counselor.

Lender alternatives to foreclosure

Hope Now (http://www.hopenow.com), an alliance of mortgage companies and housing counselors, can aid homeowners facing foreclosure. A self-assessment tool will give you an idea whether you might be eligible for help from your lender, and there are direct links to HUD-approved counseling agencies and lenders’ foreclosure-prevention programs.

There are alternatives to foreclosure that your lender might accept. The most attractive option that’ll allow you to keep your home is a loan modification that reduces your monthly payment. A modification can entail lowering the interest rate, changing a loan from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate, extending the term of a loan, or eliminating past-due balances. Another option, forbearance, can temporarily suspend payments, though the amount will likely be tacked on to the end of the loan.

If you’re unable to make even reduced payments, and assuming a conventional sale isn’t possible, then it may be best to turn your home over to your lender before a foreclosure is completed. A completed foreclosure can decimate a credit score, which will make it hard not only to purchase another home someday, but also to rent a home in the immediate future.

Your lender can approve a short sale, in which the proceeds are less than what’s still owed on your mortgage. A deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, which amounts to handing over your keys to your lender, is another possibility. The earlier you begin talks with your lender, the more likelihood of success.

Explore government programs

The federal government’s Making Home Affordable (http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/) program offers two options: loan modification (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/making-home-affordable-modification-option/) and refinancing (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/making-home-affordable-refinance-option/). A self-assessment will indicate which option might be right for you, but you need to apply for the program through your lender. A Making Home Affordable loan modification requires a three-month trial period before it can become permanent.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have their own foreclosure-prevention programs as well. Check to determine if either Fannie (http://www.fanniemae.com/loanlookup) or Freddie (http://www.freddiemac.com/mymortgage) owns your mortgage. Present this information to your lender and your counselor. Fannie and Freddie also have rental programs under which former owners can remain in recently foreclosed homes on a month-to-month basis.

The federal Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (https://www.hmpadmin.com/portal/programs/foreclosure_alternatives.html) program, which takes full effect in April 2010, offers lenders financial incentives to approve short sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure. It also provides $3,000 in relocation assistance to borrowers. Again, talk to your lender and counselor.

Treasury Designs New Federal Program to Help Stimulate Economy, by Mandelman, Mandelman Matters

This week, the federal government is said to be announcing a new federal program designed to keep our economy vacillating between deflationary collapse and contrived recovery.  The program, referred to as the Special TARP Underwriting Program to Impede Development, will first tackle the challenge of bringing the government’s most inane economic stability plans together under one larger, yet infinitely more purposeless program banner.

Initial funding for the Special TARP Underwriting Program to Impede Development will come primarily from contributions made on a voluntary basis by the nation’s largest and most insolvent financial institutions, through the sporadic unannounced printing of twenty and fifty dollar bills, and from change found in the couches left behind in foreclosed homes.

Names floated in the press for program director included initial frontrunner, Carrot Top, followed by Dan Quail and Paris Hilton, although confirmed reports say that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and White House economic advisor, Larry Summers, have thrown their considerable combined clout behind Elizabeth Warren.

“I can’t think of anymore more qualified for this job than Liz,” the Treasury Secretary said while attending a Telethon for the Boatless in Miami Beach, sponsored by the magazine, Unbridled Avarice, and through a grant made by Goldman Sachs.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, Goldman did file papers with the SEC stating that the firm does plan to short that grant in an effort to remain vigilant about it’s risk profile.)

The Special TARP Underwriting Program to Impede Development is known by the acronym, STUPID.  The program is projected to provide assistance to responsible American homeowners who have high credit scores, equity of $200,000 in a second home, and surnames that begin with “Gh” or “Pf,” assuming they did not file a tax return in 1992, and reside primarily in a state that ends in the letter “E”. Qualified homeowners can apply for assistance under the program by calling a toll-free number at HUD; area code 212-GET-STUPID.

Secretary Geithner explained the program to reporters while waiting for his dessert soufflé to rise.  Those in attendance said that he told the group that the program would help homeowners and get the economy back on track by removing the key obstacle to the future profitability of financial institutions.  He also mentioned that the soufflé was dry.

“So, now that you understand what STUPID is, let’s talk about what STUPID does,” Geithner told the group.  “I think you can see why Larry and I feel so strongly that Liz Warren be asked to run the new program.  I think that she, more than anyone else I can think of, is representative of what the program is all about.  I’m hoping that within a very short period of time, the entire country will associate the name Elizabeth Warren with STUPID.  I know Larry and I both do already.”

The good news is that almost all of the HAMP participating servicers have already signed on to participate in the new program, so most homeowners are very likely to find that they have a STUPID Servicer handling their loan.


Credit score gaps narrow for FHA loans: Quality Mortgage Services, by Jason Philyaw, Housingwire.com

The credit score gap for 2010 loans through the Federal Housing Administration fell 43 points from 2006 levels, according to Quality Mortgage Services.

The mortgage quality-control services firm said its data show the average credit score of FHA loans ranked as excellent in 2006 was 665 whereas the average score of a loan ranked fair was 603 for a gap of 62 points. For FHA loans originated so far this year, the firm’s data show excellent loans have average credit scores of 707 while fair loans average scores are 688 for a difference of 19 points.

“This is good news for investors because of the increase number of loans going for securitization where the borrower has a lower probability of a historical or future 90-day late credit scenario,” Quality Mortgage Services executive vice president Tommy Duncan said.

The Franklin, Tenn.-based company performs post-closing quality-control audits and tracks trends of mortgages.

“The decrease in the credit score gap shows that the FHA loan product is limiting itself to home buyers and reducing the number of applicants that would have normally qualified for a FHA loan in 2006,” Duncan said. “Also, this trend may make it more difficult to associate high-risk loans with certain credit score ranges and may place more focus on ratios. This data shows that underwriting templates have adjusted to a higher credit score standard to obtain a FHA loan and may be preventing the tradition first-time homebuyer, or low to moderate income earners, from obtaining a FHA loan.”

Write to Jason Philyaw.

FHA puts floor on borrower credit eligibility, by CHRISTINE RICCIARDI, Housingwire.com

Borrowers with credit scores less than 500 are not eligible for Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgage financing, according to the new credit score and loan-to-value (LTV) requirements released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This is the first time the FHA has had a minimum score to determine borrower eligibility.

Borrowers with a credit score between 500 and 579 can receive up to 90% LTV  from FHA for a single-family mortgage while any borrower with a score 580 or above is eligible for maximum funding. Non-traditional and insufficient credit is accepted provided that borrowers meet the underwriting guidelines.

100% financing is available to borrowers using Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims with no downpayment, as long as their credit score is above 500.

The FHA said it is providing a special, temporary allowance to permit higher LTV mortgage loans for borrowers with lower decision credit scores, so long as they involve a reduction of existing mortgage indebtedness pursuant to FHA program adjustments.

The credit standards will take effect on Oct. 4.

Oregon’s homeownership program to receive an additional $49.2 million, by Jeff Manning, The Oregonian

Though it’s months away from awarding a single dollar to struggling homeowners, Oregon’s newly established foreclosure-prevention program keeps growing.

Oregon’s Homeownership Stabilization Initiative is in line to receive another $49.2 million, the U.S. Treasury Department announced Wednesday. That’s on top of the $88 million already awarded by the Treasury.

Oregon officials are still refining the details of its program and won’t be ready to begin dispensing money until the end of the year, said Michael Kaplan, director of the program.

“We’re thrilled,” Kaplan said. Even with the addition of the new money, he said, “we have so much more demand than we have resources.”

The foreclosure epidemic has claimed thousands in Oregon, largely due to the state’s high unemployment. Though it remains far behind foreclosure epicenters like Nevada and California in sheer numbers of foreclosures, Oregon is now seeing new mortgage defaults increase at the third-fastest rate in the country.

The new funding comes amidst a heated debate in Washington, D.C. about government spending and the spiraling federal deficit. While many economists argue the government needs to increase spending to jumpstart the economy, others maintain the country is drowning in red ink.

With the new anti-foreclosure money, the Obama administration is sending a clear signal it intends to continue to inject public money into the economy.

In addition to the new foreclosure prevention money, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Wednesday the launch of new $1 billion short-term loan program for at-risk homeowners.

The 24-month loans will be available to homeowners facing foreclosure in part due to “a substantial reduction in income due to involuntary unemployment, underemployment or a medical condition,” HUD announced.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who has emerged as a vocal advocate for individuals slammed by the economic crash, hailed the new programs. “This funding will help Oregonians who have lost a job through no fault of their own while they get back on their feet,” said Merkley.

Obama first announced formation of the Hardest-Hit Fund in February, steering money to the 17 states most impacted by the foreclosure wave. The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that it is sending another $2 billion to the program, aimed at states where unemployment has remained high.

Qualifying standards for Oregon’s program are still being worked out, as are many of its details. Tentatively, the state envisions four different types of aid:

Loan modification assistance will help homeowners who are on the verge of successfully modifying their existing mortgages but require a small amount of additional financial resources to do so.

Mortgage payment assistance will help economically distressed homeowners pay their mortgages for up to one year.

Loan preservation assistance will provide financial resources that a homeowner may need to modify a loan, pay arrearages, or clear other significant financial penalties after a period of unemployment or loss of income.

Transitional Assistance will help homeowners who do not regain employment during the period of mortgage payment help with the resources needed to move to affordable, most likely rental, homes.


OregonRealEstateWanted.com: How It Works

Oregon Real Estate Wanted (http://www.oregonrealestatewanted.com) is a web site created for the marketing of the needs of people seeking to buy real estate in Oregon. Buyers are listed along with their needs and qualification so those that are seeking to sell real estate can contact them just like buyers approach sellers of real estate.

How it works:

Each buyer listed on the site will be given a serial number that will identify them to the public. We offer this so their privacy is protected and fairness in the presentation of all opportunities is assured.

Before being listed on OregonRealEstateWanted.com. A buyer must have met with a loan officer and obtained a pre-qualification letter. This letter will not be listed on the site, but the name and contact information of the loan officer the buyer will be working with will be included with their listing. We encourage the buyer to allow the loan officer to pull their credit report and review all of their income documentation so that loan officer can ensure the buyer is qualified for the loan program they will be applying for. We want sellers and real estate brokers that visit the site to have confidence that the buyers listed have the ability to close on a loan.

We will promote a detailed wish list the buyer(s) are looking for so people that have real estate for sale can compare that wish list with their property. If they feel they have something that is a good fit, they will be encouraged to contact us and we will then notify the buyer of an opportunity.

When a seller or broker notifies us of a property or listing that fits the buyer’s criteria we will present that property to the buyer for their consideration.

By doing this we will allow the buyer to have full access to the available properties that are available. Both properties listed on the multiple listing services and For Sale By Owners (FSBO) will be considered.

This web site will allow Stewart Group Realty to present our clients to a wide range of opportunities.

Oregon Real Estate Wanted

The Path to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Approval, Reoblogsite.com

So, you have been a mortgage broker for a while now, and you think you are ready for the next step: approval by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as a Seller and Servicer, so you can service your own loans.

In general, to be an approved Seller and Servicer for either FNMA or FHLMC, you are going to need to meet the following requirements: a corporate net worth of $500,000 to $1 million; adequate warehousing lines; three letters of reference; errors and omissions insurance and fidelity insurance; an excellent quality control program; and personnel experienced in all aspects of mortgage origination, processing, underwriting, funding and shipping, administration, service accounting and, of course, servicing itself.

These are only general, minimal requirements, so let us take a more detailed look at the requirements and the process. I preface the following information with the understanding that the reader realizes that approval of a firm by FNMA or FHLMC is at their complete discretion and is, to a great extent, a judgment call based upon your total package and all the factors included in it. All requirements are subject to change.

As far as FHLMC approval goes, net worth requirements are either $1 million or $500,000, depending upon whether you use the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) net worth of $1 million, or the FHLMC definition of acceptable net worth ($500,000). Unfortunately, a lot of potential applicants are not aware of the $500,000 net worth possibility. Even a call to Freddie Mac still found the operator not aware of that option, and claiming $1 million was a hard, fast requirement to be approved.

Acceptable net worth is defined by FHLMC as GAAP net worth minus any of the following: goodwill, purchased servicing, capitalized excess servicing, investments in joint ventures, investments in limited partnerships, REO, property, plant and equipment, receivables from affiliates, investment in affiliates, other intangibles and other assets, and deferred taxes on capitalized excess servicing. Audited financial statements are to be provided as part of the approval package.

One requirement that many still think is in force, but is not, is the requirement that a mortgage company be approved by HUD-FHA in order to be a FHLMC Seller and Servicer.

Additional requirements include having an acceptable quality control program; Errors and Omissions insurance and Fidelity insurance of $300,000 minimum coverage; a business plan (specific and reasonable for short and long term strategies); three reference letters from investors; credit reports on managing executives; adequate experience in origination and sales; and experience in underwriting, administration, default management, REO servicing and investor accounting, and servicing. Servicing is usually the weak spot for mortgage companies. You must show that whether or not you use a sub-servicer, and you have staff with more than adequate ability and knowledge to handle servicing. FHLMC no longer says you need a specific amount of servicing on the books to be approved and, in fact, you can be approved with no servicing, but the stronger the package, the more likely you will be approved.

If you are accepting Third Party Originated (TPO) loans, you also have to provide information on your standards and procedures for accepting and servicing them, since there have been so many problems with the history of these loans.

In order to apply to FHLMC, you request an application package (call 800-Freddie) and follow the instructions completely. You will need to submit resumes, financial statements, credit reports, a business plan, various certifications, the approval you want, a list of parent or subsidiary companies, corporate liaisons in various corporate capacities, any legal problems with company or managing officers, a list of investors (including their reference letters), a list of your warehouse lenders, quality control program and questionnaire, number and quantity of loans originated and sold in the last two years, number and quantity of loans serviced plus your delinquency ratios, copy of insurance coverage and all other pertinent information you feel would help your package. There is a $1000 application fee.

As far as FNMA is concerned, their requirements are very similar to those of FHLMC. There are differences, though, and as I list the general requirements (FNMA also can request any additional information it needs; the application package is a guideline and basis from which to work), any item that is different will be identified with an asterisk.

You need a corporate net worth of at least $500,000, a quality control program, experienced personnel in all areas pertinent to the business, proof that the personnel have not had any problems when employed at other FNMA-approved entities, a servicing system in place (your own or sub-services), Errors and Omissions and Fidelity insurance (same dollar amounts), references, credit reports, history and scope of the business, list of any owner of five percent or more of the company, audited financial statements, estimated volume to be sold to FNMA during the first 12 months, and availability of all key personnel for an on-site interview with FNMA staff.

In order to apply to FNMA, call the nearest regional office and request an application package. You will return the following information (some of it on their forms): areas you operate within; the approval you are applying for; any legal disclosures of problems with the company or personnel; narrative on history and scope of the company; resumes in same areas as FHLMC; investors you are currently servicing for; proof of Errors and Omissions and Fidelity coverage; financial statement; quality control program; FNMA Selling ad Servicing Contracts; estimated first 12 months sales volume; quantity and dollar amount of loans originated in the last three years; credit authorizations; number of employees in servicing and origination; liaison personnel in selling, underwriting, servicing and investor accounting; number and dollar amount of loans serviced; list of delinquencies; list of warehouse lines; and various certifications, along with a $1000 application fee.

To summarize, if you have, or are willing to acquire, the net worth, the insurance and plenty of experienced personnel, and can show you have the corporate capacity to meet all of the approval requirements of FNMA or FHLMC, maybe you should consider becoming a Seller and Servicer. The mortgage business is in an improving cycle, with the housing market (new and resale) beginning to show signs of coming alive again. This may be your time. But remember, it is not right for everyone, so be sure the approvals and servicing would fit into your corporate goals.


The Future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to be decided August 17th, by Jim Kim, FierceFinance

The most glaring omission from the Dodd-Frank financial reform act is without a doubt the lack of a plan for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The government-sponsored enterprises remain encumbered with billions in toxic loans, and unfortunately, the movement to fix these institutions has been stuck on the back burner–until now. The Treasury Department has announced it will hold a conference on the future of Fannie and Freddie on Aug. 17. A Congressional hearing will be held in September.

The administration seems bent on offering a concrete proposal in January, which is welcome news, as the travails of these entities are costing taxpayers a lot of money. So far the tab stands at $145.9 billion; it will likely end up topping $380 billion–which would make it by far the most expensive bailout effort to date.

What sort of solutions will be discussed? I doubt anyone will argue that having some sort of body that guarantees mortgages and sells them for securitization is a bad thing. The key will be to somehow retain the salutary effects of this process, which can lower costs, expand the ability of lenders to make home loans, and protect lenders from rate shocks.

Taking the long view, the rise of securitization has been a welcome development. The real estate crash has revealed that there’s a down side if you let securitization run amok. One theory, as noted by the New York Times, is that this process has led to lax lending. “If mortgage issuers passed along the default risk to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae or to the buyers of mortgage-backed securities, those issuers would have little incentive to screen borrowers properly. While issuers often do have some skin in the game, the enormous amount of both securitization and sloppy lending during the boom made it natural to link the two phenomena.” Indeed, defenders of Fannie and Freddie have long argued that they were pressured to start guaranteeing non-prime loans, to expand the homeownership pie. On top of all of this, securitization has made it harder for loans to be worked out. These are certainly reasonable theories.

The bottom line is that securitization of mortgage loans based on a sound lending standard is a good idea. But how best to do that? Perhaps the biggest issue is whether the government has a role in subsidizing this effort. And if so, what exactly is that role? What are your ideas?